Seasonal Changes

On Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life and video game remakes.

As a kid playing Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, I found myself hanging out at the town’s bar relatively often, mostly so that I could bring gifts to Muffy.

Muffy was, for my 10-year-old self, the epitome of class, charm, and femininity. I was drawn in by her pretty red dress, the sophisticated heels that she wore despite the primarily dirt roads of Forget-Me-Not Valley, and her penchant for brooding about love and life by the stream. When I picked up the remake (Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life) earlier this summer, I was surprised to find that Muffy and her workplace had changed. Her name was Molly. Her original outfit, which was a flippy, form-fitting dress that betrayed a little cleavage, had been replaced by a simpler, more romantic fit—a flowing midi dress that tied above the waist. She now worked at Bluebird Café. In fact, Blue Bar didn’t exist any longer.

Realistically, these aren’t major changes for a game remake, and it seems clear that most of them were made for the sake of a more child-friendly experience. But there’s an imposing dissonance in playing a remake as an adult that’s more kid-friendly than the version I played as an actual child. I wondered if the changes had been made in order to maintain the “E for Everyone” rating. I reached out to the ESRB to confirm — a representative told me there have not been any changes in the rating procedures since the release of the original that would have impacted the rating.

It seems, then, that the updates to Muffy’s character and the eradication of the bar have more to do with what the game makers believe to be appropriate for kids in 2023, a standard that may be pretty far off from the one used in 2003. I wonder how remakes would address the Sprite Casino where I gambled away a fortune in Harvest Moon DS or the New Year’s drinking competition in Harvest Moon 64 where you can win the affection of one of the game’s bachelorette’s, Karen, by outdrinking her.

I liked her even though she was kind of a hot mess, because she was so sweet and sincere in ways that surprised me.

Playing Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life has left me to ask myself who game remakes are really for—a new generation of young players or the kids who first played the games now grown and looking to indulge in a bit of nostalgia? If the game’s post-launch trailer is anything to go off of, developer Marvelous might have been aiming for a little bit of both. The trailer, called “Precious Memories,” showcases a boy playing multiple Harvest Moon titles at different ages, and ends with him as an adult handing his daughter a Nintendo Switch for her to play Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life. It definitely draws on the nostalgia of the original audience, but also calls on them to pass the gauntlet to the kids in their life.

I’m more than happy to pass the gauntlet. My eight-year-old niece is getting Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life for her birthday and I couldn’t be more excited. Yet, I believe that the original versions of remade games can still teach us something. I liked Muffy just how she was: a bartender who wore what she wanted and was searching for true love. I liked her even though she was kind of a hot mess, because she was so sweet and sincere in ways that surprised me.

I’m not saying that games aimed at kids need to feature drinking or gambling. I’m not even saying, despite my deep and unabiding adoration for the games I grew up with, that the older titles were better. I do feel like earlier versions of games trusted their audience with more complex characters and interesting emotional beats. And it’s good—really good—to trust your audience, especially when that audience is primarily young people.

Depth can come from many sources, and it’s my hope that where elements are removed from games remade for today’s kids, other moments of dramatic engagement and intrigue can still be found in the local café.

By Jess Elizabeth Reed

Jess is a writer and game designer based in Chicago. She writes speculative short fiction and cultural criticism about media at its intersections and designs small, weird games with an emphasis on mechanics as narrative. You can follow Jess on Twitter @jex_ewizabee or find her portfolio on her website:

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